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Flexible hours ‘would boost female leader applications by fifth’

Women are 20% more likely to apply for senior roles if they offer flexible hours, according to a government-backed study for Zurich insurance, which also found that using gender-neutral language in job adverts generated "significant change".


It comes after Zurich, which employs 4,500 in the UK, began advertising part-time, job share or flexible options in all job vacancies last year. As a result, it said the number of women hired for top roles had risen by 33%.


The research also found: 


  • Women are more likely to have caring responsibilities and may struggle to progress into more senior roles if they do not offer flexible working options. Some even end up leaving the labour market
  • Many more men also applied for roles when they offered flexible working options, suggesting the issue was "just as important" for them
  • Existing part-time employees also reported a stronger sense of "belonging" due to the shift, pointing to the fear some workers have of being judged for not working full-time.


Agata Nowakowska, Area Vice President at Skillsoft, said: “As this report highlights, women are more likely to apply for senior roles if they offer flexibility and gender-neutral language. Companies should continue to identify talented women and look for the best career paths to accelerate their growth and impact, despite juggling work and home commitments.” 


Samantha Humphries, security strategist at Exabeam, said: “This research highlights the benefits of making leadership positions more female-friendly. There are so many benefits to having a diverse organisation, but one of the more obvious reasons to cast recruitment net far wider is the technical skills gap - women represent a small percentage of a workforce desperate for more skilled workers. It’s a broad issue affecting many industries, but one that is particularly pronounced in cybersecurity. 


According to a recent (ISC)2 survey, women working in cybersecurity currently account for only about one quarter (24%) of the industry. Yet in the recent State of the SOC Report 2020, nearly 40% of the organisations surveyed feel their security operations center (SOC) is understaffed. This is the disparity that - to me - makes looking for skills in an all-but untapped female talent pool an obvious solution.” 


Nicole Sahin, Founder and CEO of Globalization Partners, said: “From recruitment, to development, to women-friendly policies, this research reminds us about the importance of prioritising equality across every aspect of the organisation, to ensure women's progress is accelerated further. Time and time again, research shows that organisations that have a high percentage of diversity financially outperform their competitors. I’ve seen first-hand the powerful results that occur when people with different perspectives work together. By striving for equal, inclusive, and diverse organisations, we can work towards a better, fairer world.”

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